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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Dialogue for democracy in G8 plan
BBC Correspondent Paul Reynolds
By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

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World leaders at the G8 summit agreed a statement supporting "democratic, social and economic reform" in the Middle East and North Africa.

The statement is a mix of encouragement and caution.

It emphasises what is called "genuine co-operation" with regional governments as well as business and civil society.

This reaching out beyond governments is important because in the Middle East, governments are often seen to be part of the problem.

Attached to the statement is a detailed Plan of Support for Reform.

The main element of this is the setting up of a "Forum for the Future."

This will bring together G8 and regional foreign and economic ministers to discuss reform on a regular basis and "in a spirit of mutual respect".

It will also hold dialogues with non-government representatives.


There will also be a series of financial aid initiatives.

One of these is a micro-finance plan, which, with the help of the World Bank, will encourage small enterprises - Jordan will host a conference of best micro-finance practices and a pilot project will be held in Yemen.

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There is a scheme to train teachers to extend literacy to 20 million people by 2015 to be sponsored by Algeria and Afghanistan.

A "Democracy Assistance Dialogue" will be set up to encourage discussion about reform within and with the region.

Italy, Yemen and Turkey will lead in this dialogue.

Two major US allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia did not go to the summit and their participation in the programme remains to be determined.

By themselves, the initiatives are modest and they are very much designed not to give the impression that the West is trying to impose its views on the region.

Initial talk from Washington of this being another Helsinki-type declaration under which governments can be held to account is heard no more.

But collectively, the idea is to give reform some help.

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